Just Getting Started
Just Getting Started never really gets going. It only kept me thinking, “Is this ever just going to finish?”
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
An in-depth look at an ambitious retrospective at NYC's Film Society of Lincoln Center that celebrates one of cinema's greatest years.
Matt writes: The 2017 Cannes Film Festival is nearly here! It will run from May 17th through the 28th, and RogerEbert.com will be providing in-depth coverage every step of the way, including our annual video reports from publisher Chaz Ebert. This year's selections include the latest work from such acclaimed filmmakers as Noah Baumbach, Sofia Coppola, Michael Haneke, Michel Hazanavicius, Todd Haynes, Bong Joon Ho, Yorgos Lanthimos and Lynne Ramsay.
An interview with director Peter Bogdanovich about 1981's "They All Laughed."
Politics of the new "Ghostbusters"; The Suskinds on "Life, Animated"; Restoring the "Chinatown" score; Bryan McMahan on "Knight of Cups"; Netflix could save "The Little Prince."
A look at "The In-Laws" in light of its Criterion Blu-ray release this month.
Roger Ebert reports from the AmFAR charity auction at Cannes.
An interview with Sally Field about Hello, My Name is Doris, along with a special cameo from director Michael Showalter.
Sheila writes: With the release of "Spectre," the latest in the James Bond franchise, it's been impossible to avoid the accompanying chatter about 007 in all of his various incarnations. Over on Vox, Phil Edwards and Estelle Caswell got creative and put together a chart of every country James Bond visits in his espionage duties: James Bond’s career, in one map. Along with the chart, there's an accompanying video. It's great, check it out!
An ode to the dying art form of the drive-in movie theater.
An appreciation of Joseph Sargent, Director of many classic television and theatrical films, including "The Taking of Pelham 123."
An oral history of "Boogie Nights"; Douglas Trumbull's latest project; Reassessing "Zero Dark Thirty"; Five great foreign titles from 2014; Paul Thomas Anderson on "Inherent Vice."
For Michał Oleszczyk, translating for his mom makes for a more active engagement with the movie.
Lou Godfrey reflects on his memories of his mother and their movie-going.
The first rule in Elmore Leonard's ten rules of writing is "Never open a book with the weather." It could never be a "dark and stormy night" in Leonard's universe. Instead, he opened his novels with nonchalant statements of character-driven fact. "Rum Punch" begins "Sunday morning, Ordell took Louis to watch the white-power demonstration in downtown Palm Beach." "The Hot Kid" informs us that "Carlos Webster was fifteen the day he witnessed the robbery and killing at Deering's drugstore." And "Glitz"'s opening line kicks off two and a half of Leonard's most readable pages with "The night Vincent was shot he saw it coming." Elmore Leonard got straight to the point. His characters were sometimes in love with their verbosity, but Leonard the narrator did not share this predilection. The omnipotent voice running through Dutch Leonard's work told you who said what, who did what, and the darkly comic repercussions of both. No writer wrung more color out of simply telling you what happened than Dutch Leonard. "Melanie was holding it in both hands now, arms extended, aimed at Gerald. "He tossed the shotgun to land on the sofa, looked up at Melanie and said 'Okay, now you put that down, honey, and I won't press charges against you.' Confident about it, as though it would settle the matter."Melanie didn't say anything. She shot him." –"Rum Punch"Leonard's characters were a multi-racial motley crew of cops, criminals, outlaws, lawyers, cowboys and sociopaths. They did not always follow the crime fiction novel's gender conventions. Strong, brutal women and weak, emotional men were not verboten. Leonard's characters were beholden to their own self-defined notions of ethics and morality. They were often much less clever than they thought; their flaws of nemesis underestimation became their undoing. Those who survived sometimes found themselves in other novels. Leonard never passed judgment as his characters flamed out in pitch black comic blazes both pathetic and glorious. To do so would violate his last and most important rule of writing: "Leave out the parts readers tend to skip." Much of the pleasure of reading Elmore Leonard was in the dialogue, which is why so many of his books became movies and TV series. Leonard followed his rule of "avoiding detailed descriptions of characters" by having his people talk to each other. He had an ear for the way conversations flowed, whether they were conducted on the street, in the precinct, or on the range. For a White guy, he certainly knew how to sound convincingly like the Black dudes who populated many of his novels. He captured the cadences of their speech, and did so without stereotype. His Brothers sounded like the guys I heard on the street in my old neighborhood; his cops sounded like cops I knew. Leonard embraced and elevated what they said, letting them ramble on whenever necessary. This love of casual chatter is probably what drew Tarantino to adapt "Rum Punch" as "Jackie Brown." It's certainly what made him pull entire chunks of Leonard's dialogue verbatim into the "Jackie Brown" script.The labyrinthine plots Leonard dragged his characters through were overly complicated yet always compelling. Even in something as spare and nasty as "52 Pick-Up," the first book of his I read, Leonard toyed with the expectations of where his stories took us. Even in the most convoluted plots, there was a feeling that the reader got entangled in this mess by virtue of the characters' machinations, not the author's. Before turning to the Florida-set crime stories that became his trademark, Elmore Leonard wrote Westerns. "3:10 to Yuma" and "The Tall T" were based on his work, as was Paul Newman's 1967 film "Hombre." Starting with "The Big Bounce" (made with Ryan O'Neal in 1969), Leonard changed his genre but kept many of the characteristics of a good Western. For example, "Mr. Majestyk" features a character protecting his "homestead" in much the same way as Jimmy Stewart or Randolph Scott would have. And of course, "Justified"'s Raylan Givens is the perfect synthesis of both genre halves of Leonard's work. Is there another author besides Shakespeare and Stephen King whose prolific output inspired so many movie adaptations? And by directors as varied as Abel Ferrara, Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, Budd Boetticher, John Frankenheimer, Barry Sonnenfeld and Burt Reynolds (whom I'm sure Leonard wanted to shoot after seeing "Stick"). The stories vary from tales of Hollywood to big money heists to sleazy exploitation. Regardless of quality—and it varied from film to film—the spirit of Dutch Leonard's prose was felt by the viewer. Since I was 17, Elmore Leonard has been my favorite writer. I told him so the one time I met him. It was at the now defunct and long-gone Waldenbooks on Exchange Place and Broadway in Manhattan. He was there to sign copies of "Rum Punch," which was eerily prescient since it was the basis of my favorite film adaptation of Leonard's work. He was a very nice man, patiently listening to the 22-year-old aspiring writer whose excited rambling violated Leonard's fourth rule of writing ("Keep your exclamation points under control!"). When I was done, he verified the spelling of my name, signed my book and wished me luck with my writing.I hadn't thought about that meeting in a while, but when I heard that Leonard died today, it rushed back to me with the immersive force of a good Elmore Leonard set piece. There was casual chatter, a cool as a cucumber experienced character, and a matter of fact, straightforward rendering of events. Nobody got shot, which is a good thing for me, but that didn't make my run-in with Mr. Leonard any less memorable. Rest in peace, Dutch.
Tom Shales looks at "Carson on TCM," a weekly series of shows culling great Carson interviews.
Marie writes: Welcome to "Good Books", an online bookseller based in New Zealand. Every time you buy a book through them, 100% of the retail profit goes directly to fund projects in partnership with Oxfam; projects which provide clean water, sanitation, develop sustainable agriculture and create access to education for communities in need. To increase awareness of Good Books' efforts to raise money for Oxfam, String Theory (New Zeland based agency) teamed up with collaborative design production comany "Buck" to create the first of three videos in a digital campaign called Good Books Great Writers. Behold the award winning animated Good Books Metamorphosis.
As a companion piece to our reassessment of "At Long Last Love," Peter Bogdanovich recalls the film's orgins, its forgotten pleasures, and the studio-mandated tinkering that turned it into a box office bomb. He also recalls turning down an offer of help from Gene Kelly, casting Burt Reynolds, and a remarkable encounter with Roger Ebert.
Peter Bogdanovich's movie musical "At Long Last Love" developed one of those reputations as a career-killing stinker, but in hindsight, it's a pretty darn good mix of 1930s tunes with the slightly more realist sensibility of later musicals. And it's a project with a crazy history. Now that it is out on Blu-Ray, it deserves another look.
Like Mary Poppins, Disney World is "practically perfect in every way." But what our jolly 'oliday with Mary didn't reveal were the slight imperfections alluded to by that phrase's quantifier: Practically perfect? I'll bet Ms. Poppins' small glitches were legendary when they occurred. Maybe her umbrella flights damaged the ozone layer, or her spoonfuls of sugar helped wreck Dick van Dyke's Cockney accent. I speculate about near-perfection because I've been to Walt's Orlando resort 19 times, and while most of these visits went off without a hitch, when things did go wrong, they went wrong in unforgettable, spectacular fashion.
I apologize for the lack of postings the last few weeks. A recent flare-up of heart problems left me with little energy to write. But as the emaciated old man in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" says: "I'm feeling much better!"
At one point well into Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" I thought that the movie was going to reveal itself as a story about the meaninglessness of human existence. But that notion was based on a single piece of aphoristic, potential-thesis-statement dialog that, like much else, wasn't developed in the rest of the movie. Which is not to say that "The Master" isn't about the meaninglessness of human life. The line, spoken by Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the cult guru known to his acolytes as Master, is addressed to the younger man he considers his "protégé," a dissolute mentally ill drifter named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), and the gist of it is that the itinerant Freddie has as much to show for his life as somebody who has worked a regular 9-to-5 job for many years. The point being, I suppose, that for all Freddie's adventures, peculiarities and failures, he isn't all that much different from anybody else. Except, maybe, he's more effed-up.
I've never been good with small talk. In those corporate conferences with high ceilings and manufactured friendships, I used to admire those high-speed networkers who spun small talk and smooth talk as they worked a room. I don't play golf. I don't drink booze. I'm a fair weather sports fan. If you were to stand alone in an elevator with me, you'd probably hear me breathe as I stared at the floor. Further, if you want to kill an otherwise lively conversation among a bunch of decreasingly sober corporate executives in ill-fitted khakis, sport coats, and crooked "Hi My Name is" name-tags, then make the mistake that I keep making: tell them that you're an expert on religion. The crowd in front of you will split apart faster than the Red Sea. And, perhaps that is why I was never invited by my colleagues to go on those weekend warrior trips, like the characters in John Boorman's forty year old "Deliverance" (1972). This is the story of four confident suburban businessmen looking to raft to the bottom of a river. Along the way, the experience pounds the hell out of them.
From Andy Ihnatko, Boston, MA:
Chaz Ebert introduces Timothy Spall (Rosencrantz) and Rufus Sewell (Fortinbras), both in town with the opening night attraction, a full-length (238-minute) 70 mm print of Kenneth Branagh's 1996 film of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet." (photos by jim emerson)
What is Ebertfest without Ebert? Fest? Kicking off the 10th Anniversary edition of Roger Ebert's (formerly Overlooked) Film Festival, Chaz Ebert passed along her husband's sentiments that, today, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time -- that is, in a bed in Chicago instead of in at the Virginia Theatrer in Urbana-Champaign. But, she reported him saying, you could also say the same thing about the day he tripped on the carpet and fractured his hip. Nobody's giving up hope, though. Chaz said they were consulting with doctors day by day and that she wouldn't be surprised if Roger wound up making it here after all before the fest is through. [UPDATE: The next day Roger and his doctors decided that making the trip wasn't worth the health risk.}
L to R (I hope): Jeff Nichols ("Shotgun Stories"), John Peterson ("The Real Dirt on Farmer John"), Eran Kolirin ("The Band's Visit"), Chaz Ebert, Timothy Spall and Rufus Sewell ("Hamlet"), Joan Cohl and Hannah Fisher ("Citizen Kohl"), William J. Erfuth and Joseph Greco and Adam Hammel ("Canvas").
Last year Ebertfest seemed to improve his rate of recovery exponentially, so we can only hope he'll make it to town. (For a sample of good wishes see the comments at his blog, Roger Ebert's Journal.)
So, the festival is just getting started tonight, but already I've learned some things just from talking to people and reading the program. For example:
View image Burt Reynolds, Superstar.
The Burt-a-Thon (formally known as the Burt Reynolds-a-Thon) starts today over at Welcome to L.A.. The awesome Larry Aydlette, whom some of you may know from his blog-lives as That Little Round-Headed Boy and/or The Shamus, has set himself a truly daunting, awesomely ambitious task: For the entire month of February, he will... well, let Larry explain it himself: Obviously, Burt Reynolds didn't get the e-mail that he was supposed to go quietly away. But that's not the Burt Reynolds way. In his autobiography, "My Life," he begins with a quote from George Bernard Shaw: "I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work, the more I live."
View image Cosmo centerfold Burt, 1972.
So, I've decided to honor that work ethic and use his birth month for 29 straight days of Burt Reynolds coverage. This isn't a love-a-thon. In rewatching a lot of his movies, I've come to the conclusion that he didn't necessarily deserve to win the Oscar for the films that he and many critics thought he should have won them for. And he was never nominated for what seems to me to be his one indisputable masterpiece (although I doubt many critics will agree with me). But there are quite a few of his films that are very, very good, and deserve reconsideration.